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August 1914The war of 1914 creates seismic shifts in British politics. Ramsey McDonald resigns as PLP leader.
February 191510,000 engineering workers in Glasgow organise a wildcat strike demanding higher wages. Gaining no support from their own union, the Amalgamated Society of Engineers (ASE) which demanded that they return to work, the strikers decided to set up a Labour Withholding Committee (LWC) to represent themselves and organise the strike. This is seen as a precursor to the Clyde Workers Committee (CWC) of rank-and-file trade unionists and the shop stewards movement.
March 1915The government reacts to the dangers posed by the strike. A special conference was called and the ‘treasury agreements’ were signed - all independent union rights, including the right to strike, were suspended for the duration of the war. Unskilled workers were permitted to carry out skilled workers' jobs to meet the demands for munitions. The ‘Munitions Act’ made striking a criminal offence.
May 1915Labour gain their first representation in Cabinet as Arthur Henderson takes a place in Asquith's coalition.
September 1915Keir Hardie, an outspoken opponent of the war, dies.
February 1916 The government introduces conscription. It is the Independent Labour Party's grassroots who are often the most vehement in active opposition to the slaughter. The perpetrators of the 'No Conscription Fellowship,' hundreds are imprisoned for their attempts to help people avoid the draft. Equally important are the strikes in the war industries. These often boast members of the British Socialist Party as leaders. The BSP is a Labour Party affiliate and an organisation that is a direct descendant of the Social Democratic Federation. These strikes sometimes escalate into huge, unofficial disputes involving thousands of workers.
Maintaining some links with the activity outside parliament, Labour is at first able to exploit this situation, as the War Emergency Workers' National Committee cements Labour's ties with a broad constituency of people, including Sidney Webb.
December 1916Lloyd George becomes Prime Minister of a new Coalition - and he needs Labour leaders onboard. Meanwhile, the amount of planning required for war is also seen as providing possible examples for future government. The labour movement is now beginning to flex its muscles on the national stage.
August 1917 Henderson resigns from the Cabinet after Lloyd George humiliates him for suggesting that post-Revolutionary Russia would not remain fighting on the Eastern Front. At this stage in the bloodshed, the desire for peace unites the party in antipathy to the fractitious Liberals. Work starts on reconstructing the Party organisation, with Sidney Webb concentrating upon developing a cohesive ideological programme including the new Clause IV. Local parties are created in every constituency which individuals were asked to join, thereby opening the door to women and non-unionised supporters.
December 1918The Labour Party is therefore in quite good shape for the Khaki Election of 1918, the first to involve women voters, and duly wins a record 57 seats. However, the leadership are wiped out, some for opposing the war. Included in the 57 is the first Co-op MP who takes the Labour whip for the following Parliament. The Co-op had seen its members suffer at the hands of the Conscription Boards during the First World War, when they were often the first to be sent away to be killed or wounded. It was because of this that political representation was felt to be needed, in what had previously been an avowedly non-political organisation.


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